When is a building more than a simple building, more than drywall and 2x4s, more than paint and fixtures, more than a place where spreadsheets are created and invoices billed out? The staff of ShadeScapes Americas in Hotchkiss are eager to answer those questions as they showcase their newly-renovated building this weekend. This building is a lot more than an office space said Jo Edmondson, the co-owner of ShadeScapes; it is helping to tell the story of Hotchkiss as the community comes together to work on reinvigorating the town and spur economic development.
ShadeScapes is located at 122 East Bridge Street, in what is sometimes still known as either the "furniture store" or the "buffalo collection," depending on how long you've been in the valley. The building was built in 1904 and housed a combination furniture store, undertaker, barbershop and bath house. At one point, the building was expanded to a 7,000 square foot, two story brick building. Throughout the years, the building has housed the library, a doctor's office, a housewares store, a beauty shop, Valley Skii-Doo in the early 80s, an auto parts store and The Buffalo Collection store.
"We've got a building with a lot of history here," said Don Foster, the chief designer of the renovation project. "This building is alive." He has given the building the nickname "the Grand Lady of Hotchkiss."
When ShadeScapes bought the building, nearly a quarter of the storefronts in downtown Hotchkiss were vacant. Foster and Edmondson intended to renovate the historic building into a designer showroom and cohesive workspace for employees, utilizing as much of the historic and vintage materials as possible. The building retains the historic, original elevator, some of the old Delta brick, trim, transom and other elements. During renovation, an old door was discovered that had been bricked over; that door now graces one of the upstairs offices. "It was one of those neat little surprises you get when you work on old buildings," Foster said. They even found some chunks of charcoal under the floorboards, remnants of a 1912 fire in the building.
ShadeScapes is an international business which manufactures architectural-grade umbrellas, cabanas, shade sails, lounges, outdoor furniture, and pavilions. ShadeScapes is a company built on the idea of summer, and their building design needed to mimic that. The building was converted from three small offices and two apartments into 11 interconnected workspaces and shared collaboration space on the mezzanine. "The overall design was meant to be open, light and airy, contemporary, fresh, natural, artistic, lofty, vintage and a little whimsical, and most importantly to feel like summer," Edmondson said. "We wanted the space to reflect who we are and tell the story of our brand."
The project had some help in the form of a $65,000 REDI grant, which was designed to help rural communities create jobs, drive capital investment and economic development.
"The building has generated a lot of interest on how we can revitalize Bridge Street," Edmondson said. "It lets the community see that it's possible elsewhere. We'd love to see other businesses in the empty storefronts of downtown Hotchkiss."
She is one of the volunteers behind the current Colorado Main Street efforts, through which the community will work to rejuvenate downtown and preserve the historic integrity of the town. The program is sponsored by DOLA. The Town of Hotchkiss lent its support to the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce in the initiative, and recently the community was granted Affiliate status, which means the community is now in the strategic planning process. Edmondson and others who are on a subcommittee of the chamber are working on identifying goals and action steps the town can work on for economic vitality, design, organization and promotion. All of that work will result in a strategic plan, and the community can apply to be a Candidate in the Main Street program. Edmondson said she hopes they will be ready to apply in about a year.
"There is a potential for change in the Valley that's been going on recently, despite the mines closing," Foster said. "In Hotchkiss, the Main Street Program seems to want to honor the history of Hotchkiss but also be poised to open itself to having more diversity of enterprise. ShadeScapes does most of its business on the internet, and hopefully we can attract more firms to the area who are drawn to the simple lifestyle but who can still carry on their business in an international world."
"The whole concept is to bring some vitality to the community," Edmondson said. "Hopefully the town will start to come alive like it used to be." She has opened the doors to the ShadeScapes offices for the subcommittee to use the building as its headquarters during the project. The building is also offered to non-profits to use for meetings and events in the evenings and weekends. "We really want the building to be a place where the community can enjoy it," she said. "I think having the showroom open on the weekends and using it for other activities will start to bring activity to downtown. We want to help get Bridge Street back to feeling like a main street."
The open house and renovation celebration takes place this Saturday, March 18, from noon - 4 p.m., at the Shadescapes offices at 122 East Bridge St. There will be tours, refreshments and an umbrella giveaway. "We hope people come in, take a look at the history, take a look at the old and the new that we've spent a lot of time creating. It's just a fun place to walk around and see," Edmondson said.